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Marvel’s Spider-Man Review: Can web swinging be considered therapeutic?

By January 3, 2019 No Comments

“Best Superhero Game of the Decade”

Marvel’s Spider-Man is an action-adventure game developed by Insomniac Games and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment for the PlayStation 4, based on the Marvel Comics superhero Spider-Man. Released worldwide on September 7, 2018, it was the first licensed game developed by Insomniac. 

Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does whatever a spider can… maybe an outdated Spider-Man, but not 2018 Spider-Man. 2018 Spider-Man can easily get out of a bath tub/sink, wouldn’t fit under an egg cup and probably won’t get eaten if MJ & him decide to get a little frisky. I digress, let’s get to the review.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, there’s been a myriad of Spider-Man games throughout the past couple of decades. Some being flops, some being pretty amazing – namely Spider-Man (2000) on PS1. Those were the days of simple games. Games with no complex stories that need neural links to film adaptations or pop culture. A time where you play, just for the moment, a break from your busy life (back then I was 8 years old – so my busy life consisted of homework or annoying my younger brother).

The most recent Spider-Man games between then and this latest entry were released when Spider-Man films were on cinema screens. Producers probably thought; hey let’s try make an extra buck from the fame of the movies – like 2014’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2. I’m going to be frank, I didn’t play this game, probably never will. Same thing happened when I heard Marvel’s Spider-Man game was coming out.

I thought it was going to be some sort of pro-story, Marvel Universe Spider-Man game mimicking what happened in the movie (I liked the movie though). It wasn’t until a few friends of mine showed me the trailer of the game and a video of a bunch of guys, similar to myself from IGN talking about the game that I had some hope for this latest entry to the game series. Something which also moved me from a talk I heard about the game was that Spider-Man won’t be a game which robs me – meaning no micro-transactions etc. (apart from the DLCs of course).

So, for the past couple of months I’ve been asking my friends to lend me this game so I can try it out, most of them telling me they’ll let me borrow it once they finish it. Two months after its release for a 25 hour long story game doesn’t really sound right. So, F them, I went and bought it off Amazon. Took me around 5 days to complete the story, got all the gadgets and the secret picture locations. Absolutely awesome – so much so, I listed it in the Top 10 games to play this Christmas.

The Game –  

How can I put this? Spider-Man is one hell of a game *cough* better than the Batman games *cough*. I’m not just talking about game mechanics, but also storyline. You know that Insomniac Games made this masterpiece to appeal to the bigger single player audience, rather than just those standard Spider-Man fans – from traversing across an uninterrupted Manhattan skyline to bursting some bad guy’s bubble with your multi-functional web shooters.

Many critics felt that the cinematic sequences were a bit jarring, and sometimes that was true, especially when your blood is pumping to continue the game in an urgent time and place and you’re stuck talking to Aunt May about what you’re going to eat. But hey, that’s Spider-Man, and that’s also something that I loved about the game – keeping true to the prose. Although, the critics are correct with regard to quick-time events when achieving the most dramatic and sensational feats. For example – stopping a helicopter from crashing down on Manhattan all happens during the cinematic sequence, while I appreciate the spectacle, it makes the player feel like a witness rather than the hero. What I feel compliments this cinematic experience is when you take on any of Spider-Man’s main villains. Fights with bad guys like Scorpion or Kingpin often rely on one sequence of moves, with Kingpin it was: Web him up, zip in close and repeatedly pummel the square button until he regains his consciousness. This is where you’d have to flip a few metres away and repeat the sequence again. When you’re battling TWO of your core enemies at once it can get a little difficult, but for most of the boss fights I didn’t feel that much of a challenge.

Moving away from boss battles, combat in other sections of the game, when fighting ‘pawns’ or ‘soldiers’ can be pretty rewarding, especially when you’ve unlocked a bunch of wicked new moves and gadgets. Apart from the awesome damage you can do with these moves, it’s pretty cool to watch how Insomniac really made his combat super fluid. Swing-kicking into a group of enemies, disarming them and throwing their weapon back at them, zipping back to the enemy shooting them in the air, ripping them apart with some sick combos and then web throwing them to the ground can make you feel pretty invincible. Suit powers and gadgets can be pretty handy – my favourite ‘load-out’ was the spider-bro as a suit power with the impact web. While this was not the best load-out for all the fights I encountered, this was my most used by far. Nevertheless, finding the right suit power and gadget that suits your play-style is imperative. Every time I unlocked one of these upgrades I always spent around 15 minutes using them or doing a side-mission to understand their strengths.

Apart from the superb, and gripping main story of the game I found side missions very entertaining and challenging. From tracking a fake Spider-Man, solving crimes, doing those pesky Taskmaster challenges, chasing pigeons or completing tasks from the research station I always had stuff to do when I wanted some time away from the core story.

Something I really enjoyed within the game were the gang hideouts – finding yourself surrounded by enemies and using all your moves and skills in tandem to defeat each of them started looking like a combat-based symphony of sorts. These henchmen base missions are critical, especially if you want to unlock the game’s multitude of extra costumes, almost all of which have a unique power affiliated to them. Every side objective rewards the player with tokens that can also be cashed in for suits and gadget upgrades – while these aren’t really needed to progress through the story wearing something different and gaining a new ability to defeat enemies really does spice things up.

The World: Manhattan –  

The big apple, the city that never sleeps and the city of dreams – New York City. This version of Spider-Man is set in present-day New York City, and run by Mayor Norman Osborn. 23 year-old Peter Parker at this point in his life has already put away villains like Electro, Rhino, and Vulture and has a friendly relationship with the police. He works as a research assistant, has his own cardboard-box sized apartment in Manhattan and is on the fritz with the lovely MJ who is working as a reporter with the Daily Bugle. After a brief prologue in the start where you take down one of the Spider-Verse’s most infamous characters you are let loose on the whole city – giving you the chance to view the whole of Manhattan from the start.

Like most open world games nowadays, producers included Fast Travel within the game to save players time when traversing from one point of interest to the other. Strangely, like Red Dead Redemption 2, in Marvel’s Spider-Man I preferred getting to my destination by swinging there. Spider-Man’s Manhattan captures the city’s beauty perfectly. Immediately after ending the prologue, as previous discussed, you are able to swing freely, making astounding web arcs to transport yourself through the city’s avenues. It’s pretty easy to get a hang of the game’s smooth web-based movement. Most times I felt like getting to my location the old fashioned way while listening to good old JJ Jameson complain about Spider-Man while finding helping out that one-off civilian in need made me feel more like a web-slinging crime fighter. From the get-go, to see the whole of Manhattan you’ll need to unscramble a few broken radio towers in each section of town – sounds similar doesn’t it?

Traveling to different zones doesn’t really change the game’s difficulty. From my experience I pretty much got them out of the way in the beginning of the game, since really and truly these felt like a task rather than part of the game itself. Nonetheless, I still urge players to use Fast-Travel, especially when changing suits, during travel time you’ll likely see Spider-Man catching the subway in his suit often confusing other passengers on the tube trying to understand what he’s doing on his phone or being fallen asleep on – great stuff Insomniac!

Something which I really liked about the game was that the game producers really got the picture straight on what modern day Spider-Man would experience if he was fighting crime in 2018 – especially when taking into consideration the in-game social media feed found on the screen.

The City That Never Sleeps DLC:

The Heist – 

The Heist certainly sets up a pretty good story and a couple of characters to start off the ‘The City That Never Sleeps’ DLC. The character development is once again top class, and left me wanting to see more. New gameplay ideas were pretty good, albeit others being pretty frustrating – especially a new baddy with a chain gun which was pretty tough when playing the game in Spectacular Mode. I mean hordes of these guys can make you rage. The emphasis of the roughly three-hour DLC really is on the story, in which Black Cat immediately makes an indelible mark on this world.

Turf Wars – 

The Heist was fun, but Turf Wars feels like Insomniac really put more effort into this one, despite it being a continuation with regard to the story. Turf Wars takes a classic, old school Spidey Nemesis, pushes the boundaries on making him a modern bad guy, but with elements seen in previous Spider-Man villains – using new faces to stir things up.

Silver Lining – 

Silver Lining’s story and gameplay is where the game’s DLC trilogy really comes into play. Insomniac ties everything together beautifully, and in doing so gives some weight to what might have otherwise been optional challenges. With diverse missions, Silver Sable’s return and a clear sense of resolution, Silver Lining is a rewarding end and an exciting tease for what is to come with Marvel’s Spider-Man 2.

Conclusion

Some gamers criticize the game’s predictability; regarding its open world and its linear story (their words, not mine). I found the game to be pretty astounding. Action sequences are breathless and remarkable. Each main game encounter feels absolutely cinematic, to the point where you can actually put some pieces together and publish it as another entry in the MCU. If, like me, you spent your childhood watching Spider-Man cartoons – while sometimes watching them again in the morning before school just for kicks then you’ll truly appreciate the Spidey lore this game is packed with.

The biggest moments in Spider-Man are as varied as they are dramatic. From scaling buildings through its elevator shafts, to covertly webbing snipers up from a lamp post and chasing helicopters while dragging a crane through NYC’s skyscrapers while dodging missiles – this game really makes you feel like your friendly neighborhood Spider-man. In my opinion, this has to be the greatest superhero game of this decade.

Favourite Pastime:

  • Web slinging across the NYC skyline.

Favourite Spider-Man suit:

  • Cyborg Spider-Man Suit (Only available with Silver Lining DLC)

Things I Hated:

  • The lack of cinematic when changing from one time of day to the next (literally changing the gradient of the sky with no movement, come on Insomniac, you’re better than that!)

Pro-active tips:

Repair the Security Towers ASAP

I usually do this in all open-world games, the sooner you repair all the Oscorp security towers, the better. Like this, you’ll finish this task earlier on as to not annoy you with a fuzzy map.

Diversify your Activities

As you complete side activities and nab more of the game’s collectibles, you’ll earn special tokens used to upgrade Spider-Man’s gadgets and craft new suit mods and powers. These upgrade require all manner of tokens to unlock, so when you’re out in the world, try do a bunch of side objectives to better Spider-Man’s arsenal and then use them in your main story mission.

Try walking around New York for a while

This is something I found out half way through the game. As much fun as it is to swing through the city, there’s a whole world out there on the sidewalks of New York to explore. Give people high fives, eavesdrop on the chatter, check out and take photos of Manhattan landmarks or even the Daily Bugle!

Pros:

  • Web swinging is awesome
  • Very fluid and smooth combat
  • Storyline is fantastic
  • UI is very easy
  • Voice acting and soundtrack are well done

Cons:

  • Awkward camera movements
  • MJ sequences were boring
  • Boss fights were too easy

Verdict:

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